by Sallie Carter, Communications and Outreach Manager
At 11 years old, I was standing in the middle of a tangle of bean vines with a mixture of tears and snot running down my face as I watched my friend Amber casually ride her bike back and forth on the road. This was an invitation to join her, a fact that my father knew as he said, “Not today.” I stamped my foot on the ground and screamed, “When I grow up I am never going to live on a farm!” before turning back to picking and sobbing.
How I took that farm life for granted! Though there was plenty of hard work, there were hours and hours of jumping from waterfalls, stalking crawdads, building hay forts, catching fish, making “discoveries” in the woods, and lying on the grass watching the clouds. The creek behind our house was my playground and the woods of the hollow my second home.
Still, there was the hard work.
So I went off to college to major in economics and finance and made a career in banking. I never sweated while I worked, never had my work plans turned upside down by weather, I had easy access to the resources I needed to do my job, and I became well respected by my superiors and peers. Most of the time, I enjoyed it. However there was still something missing – a greater sense of purpose in the world. I began to fill this void by volunteering for causes I cared about, and all was well for a time.
Then one morning I was in a colleague’s office lamenting several problems of the world when he stopped me and asked, “How are you going to be part of the solution?” The question stayed with me and I began to rethink who I wanted to be. I decided that for me, being part of the solution meant turning my advocations into a vocation.
The road from that conversation to my role at The Nature Conservancy was not straight. Now that I’m here, the work at times is hard, the rain can ruin our careful plans, and there are never enough resources to do everything we feel needs to be done. But I am someplace where I know that I am part of the solution, and I am energized by meeting people daily who are doing what they can to help.
- Shelly Morris, our Western Kentucky Project Director, who brings diverse coalitions together to help farmers restore wetlands on their property, prevent catastrophic flooding, and implement agricultural solutions that are sustainable economically and environmentally.
- Ken Brooks, who passionately and tirelessly lends himself to building and maintaining trails, leading educational hikes, and volunteering anywhere we need him.
- Gerry James, who sees the disconnect between the abundance of outdoor adventures waiting to be had in Kentucky and the few people who take part in them and is working with multiple organizations and businesses to change it.
- Larry Cox, who, knowing that conservation is not a partisan issue, works steadily toward policy solutions that benefit both nature and people.
- Tom Dupree, who after a lifetime of business success has made extremely generous financial contributions to the work we do in Kentucky.
As the list illustrates, you don’t have to work for a conservation organization to be a part of the solution. Some people volunteer their skills and labor, some donate money, others advocate for policy solutions, and still others fill a void with a new contribution. The key to helping conserve the lands and waters of Kentucky is to take that first step by deciding the answer to an important question.
How are you going to be part of the solution?